November 29, 2022

How is vagueness affecting social media?

By Kira Hoffelmeyer, @KHoffy29

When you consider how much interaction we have with social media daily, it’s surprising when you remember that major social websites — like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. — are younger than my peers at the University of Oregon. (Wow guys, does that make you feel old or what?)

So, it might be easy to say that all of us understand, if not intuitively, what social media is.

In case you don’t, Brian Solis has a good definition in his book Engage (You can check it out on page 21): 

“Social media is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism, one-to-many, to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people, and peers.”

That’s a good, though vague, definition for a difficult subject. But with vague words come vague responsibilities.

In our vast and immeasurable desire to be transparent, be authentic, be ourselves, produce viral content, listening to our audience and engaging with them, social media content has become vague.

Bloomberg even has an article on how to be successful by speaking vaguely. And, actually, “vague” appears to be quite the buzz word in social media lately.

Social media managers, my apologies for subsequent cringing and wincing you may experience at the examples below.

Perhaps the funniest vague trend is “Vaguebooking.”

What exactly is that? Well, here’s how people are defining it on UrbanDictionary.com:

Here are a couple examples below:

While the definition and examples only include Facebook, this vagueness is still happening on Twitter too

It’s an epidemic — you can even find it on Instagram.

While companies aren’t actively being vague on social media, the policies behind them are. That doesn’t exactly set up a social media manager to do their job the best they can.

I understand why the policies are sometimes vague — there are legal reasons, free speech issues and liabilities, too.

With so much encouragement to avoid unclear social media policies there has been plenty of examples on the opposite side of the spectrum — i.e. lawsuits challenging the limit of speech on what employees can say on social media.

Lack of clarity and expectations can lead to mismanagement of social media accounts — but having explicit, detailed policies and expectations isn’t necessarily any better.

In class, Kelli Matthews presented some questions to ask yourself, and your company, about the importance of freedom in social media policies:

– How important is it that your employee can make his/her own decisions?
– How important is innovation?
– Does your company foster a culture of trust and respect employee judgement?

Hopefully these answers would lead you to figure out a social media policy that works best for your company.

If not, I apologize for being so vague.

Like this blog post? Check out Kira Hoffelmeyer on Medium.